Reading List for PhD Minor Exam on the Works of Philip K. Dick

In June 2010, I will take my three PhD exams in the Kent State University English Literature PhD program.  For these exams, I convened a committee of trusted professors, each administering one exam. I choose to take my exams in these areas: 20th Century American Literature (administered by Kevin Floyd), Postmodern Theory (administered by Tammy Clewell), and the Philip K. Dick Canon (administered by Donald “Mack” Hassler). Below, I have included my Philip K. Dick reading list. Go here to read my Postmodern Theory exam list, and here to read my 20th Century American Literature exam list.

PhD Minor Area Exam:  Philip K. Dick’s Fiction and Non-Fiction, and Critical Works

Director:  Donald “Mack” Hassler

Novels by Philip K. Dick, organized by date of composition.

  1. Dick, Philip K. Gather Yourselves Together.  1950.  1994.
  2. —. Voices from the Street.  1952.  2007.
  3. —. Vulcan’s Hammer .  1953.  1960.
  4. —. Dr. Futurity.  1953.  1960.
  5. —. The Cosmic Puppets.  1953.  1957.
  6. —. Solar Lottery.  1954.  1955.
  7. —. Mary and the Giant.  1954.  1987.
  8. —. The World Jones Made.  1954.  1956.
  9. —. Eye in the Sky.  1955.  1957.
  10. —. The Man Who Japed.  1955.  1956.
  11. —. The Broken Bubble.  1956.  1988.
  12. —. Puttering About in a Small Land.  1957.  1985.
  13. —. Time Out of Joint.  1958.  1959.
  14. —. In Milton Lumky Territory.  1958.  1985.
  15. —. Confessions of a Crap Artist.  1959.  1975.
  16. —. The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike.  1960.  1982.
  17. —. Humpty Dumpty in Oakland.  1960.  1986.
  18. —. The Man in the High Castle.  1961.  1962.
    2009/12/2
  19. —. We Can Build You.  1962.  1972.
  20. —. Martian Time-Slip.  1962.  1964.
  21. —. Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb.  1963.  1965.
  22. —. The Game-Players of Titan.  1963.  1963.
  23. —. The Simulacra. 1963.  1964.
  24. —. The Crack in Space.  1963.  1966.
  25. —. Now Wait for Last Year.  1963.  1966.
  26. —. Clans of the Alphane Moon.  1964.  1964.
  27. —. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.  1964.  1965.
  28. —. The Zap Gun.  1964.  1967.
  29. —. The Penultimate Truth.  1964.  1964.
  30. —. Deus Irae.  1964.  1976.  (Collaboration with Roger Zelazny).
  31. —. The Unteleported Man.  1964.  1966.  (Republished as Lies, Inc. in 1984).
  32. —. The Ganymede Takeover.  1965.  1967.  (Collaboration with Ray Nelson).
  33. —. Counter-Clock World.  1965.  1967.
  34. —. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 1966.  1968.
  35. —. Nick and the Glimmung.  1966.  1988.
  36. —. Ubik.  1966.  1969.
  37. —. Galactic Pot-Healer.  1968.  1969.
  38. —. A Maze of Death.  1968.  1970.
  39. —. Our Friends from Frolix 8.  1969.  1970.
  40. —. Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said.  1970.  1974.
  41. —. A Scanner Darkly.  1973.  1977.
  42. —. Radio Free Albemuth.  1976.  1985.
  43. —. VALIS. 1978.  1981.
  44. —. The Divine Invasion.  1980.  1981.
  45. —. The Transmigration of Timothy Archer.  1981.  1982.

Short Fiction by Philip K. Dick, needs elaboration by individual stories.

  1. The Philip K. Dick Reader.  1997.
  2. Robots, Androids, and Mechanical Oddities:  The Science Fiction of Philip K. Dick.  Eds. Patricia S. Warrick and Martin H. Greenberg.  1984.

Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick.  2002.

Non-Fiction by Philip K. Dick

  1. Dick, Philip K.  “The Android and the Human.” Vector:  Journal of the British Science Fiction Association 64 (March/April 1973):  5-20.
  2. —. The Dark Haired Girl.  1988.

Critical Works

  1. Fitting, Peter.  “Ubik:  The Deconstruction of Bourgeois SF.” Science Fiction Studies 2:1 (1975).  19 October 2007 <http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/5/fitting5art.htm&gt;.
  2. Haney, William S. II. Culture and Consciousness:  Literature Regained.  Lewisburg:  Bucknell University Press, 2002.
  3. Kucukalic, Lejla. Philip K. Dick:  Canonical Writer of the Digital Age.  New York:  Routledge, 2009.
  4. Mackey, Douglas A. Philip K. Dick.  Boston:  Twayne Publishers, 1988.
  5. Palmer, Christopher. Philip K. Dick:  Exhilaration and Terror of the Postmodern.  Liverpool:  Liverpool UP, 2003.
  6. On Philip K. Dick:  40 Articles from Science-Fiction Studies.  <more information>.
  7. Sutin, Lawrence. Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick.  New York:  Carroll & Graf, 2005.
  8. Suvin, Darko.  “P.K. Dick’s Opus:  Artifice as Refuge and World View.” Science Fiction Studies 2:22 (1975).  19 October 2007 <http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/5/suvin5art.htm&gt;.
  9. Vest, Jason P. The Postmodern Humanism of Philip K. Dick.  Lanham, MD:  Scarecrow Press, 2009.
  10. Warrick, Patricia S. The Cybernetic Imagination in Science Fiction. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1980.
  11. —.Mind in Motion:  The Fiction of Philip K. Dick.  Carbondale and Edwardsville:  Southern Illinois UP, 1987.

Stanislaw Lem’s “Philip K. Dick: A Visionary Among the Charlatans”

In Science Fiction Studies #5 (1975), Stanislaw Lem wrote an article, translated from the Polish by Robert Abernathy, describing, analyzing, and challenging the work of Philip K. Dick (up to that point). Titled “Philip K. Dick: A Visionary Among the Charlatans,” it is a rich essay that has much to say about Dick’s work and the work of the critic.

Lem says that Dick, like other science fiction authors, takes from the “warehouse which has long since become their common property,” or what Damien Broderick later theorized as the SF mega-text (57). One of the themes that Dick relies on is the catastrophe, but unlike most other science fiction authors, the catastrophes in Dick’s fiction occur for unascertainable reasons, i.e., the uncovered causes are deferred to the end. The common denominator in all of Dick’s fiction is a world beset by an unconstrained and monstrous entropy that devours matter and even time. Following his instincts, as Patricia Warrick would later say of Dick that he is understood intuitively, Lem says of Dick that he does not go in for rational explanations, but instead, confounds both the plot and the conventions of the science fiction genre itself. Of this, Lem demonstrates that genres have conventions, but those conventions were formed by previous breaking of convention to make the genre thus. Dick does this to science fiction, changing it to meet his own needs and creativity. Coupled with his genre breaking is the fact that Dick is a bricoleur, though this is not the word Lem uses, but it is very much what he is describing. Lem describes Dick’s work as something offered for sale at a “county fair,” having been made from a variety of concepts and ideas, but making the new creation solidly his own. Dick is not a futurologist, but rather representing the very idea of futureshock in his stories. Dick is not an extrapolator who changes one thing and leaves all the rest unscathed. He shows how civilization goes on, progress forward, but having been changed radically by the events presupposed in his stories. He acknowledges that history cannot be rewound. The fusion of the natural with the artificial, a point also raised by Warrick, Leo Marx, and Sharona Ben-Tov, means that there can be no more talk of a return to nature. In this, Dick does question progress, but not by chucking the concept. Instead, he complicates it, and again, confounds it. For Dick, our technological labyrinth prevents us from returning to nature–again, connections with Warrick, Marx, and Ben-Tov. Lem conjectures on this as something beyond the scope of Dick’s work, but nevertheless should be taken into account. He thinks about how the “irreversibility of history, leads Dick to the pessimistic conclusion that looking far into the future becomes such a fulfillment of dreams of power over matter as converts the ideal of progress into a monstrous caricature” (64). It is this carrying Dick’s ideas further in his criticism that Lem attempts to practice the very thing Dick practiced in his writing. And most importantly, in his short engagement of the novel Ubik, Lem, a good structuralist, avoids the author’s interpretation of the work, and instead considers how the thing ‘ubik’ and its combination of the old and philosophical with the modern and consumer culture resulted in such a powerful metaphor and not a futurological or technical artifact (66).

Two other things that I would like to leave with you from this essay is Lem’s idea about the relationship of the critic to a work–as defender rather than prosecutor–a way that I have tried to work in my own scholarship and reviews: “I think, however, that the critic should not be the prosecutor of a book but its defender, though one not allowed to lie: he may only present the work in the most favorable light” (60).

And I would like to quote at length, Lem’s concluding paragraph, in which he gives a honest, gracious, and thoughtful tribute to Dick’s writing. Lem says:

The writings of Philip Dick have deserved a better fate than that to which they were destined by their birthplace. If they are neither of uniform quality nor fully realized, still it is only by brute force that they can be jammed into that pulp of materials, destitute of intellectual value and original structure, which makes up SF. Its fans are attracted by the worst in Dick–the typical dash of American SF, reaching to the stars, and the headlong pace of action moving from one surprise to the next–but they hold it against him that, instead of unraveling puzzles, he leaves the reader at the end on the battlefield, enveloped in the aura of a mystery as grotesque as it is strange. Yet his bizarre blendings of hallucinogenic and palingenetic techniques have not won him many admirers outside the ghetto walls, since there readers are repelled by the shoddiness of the props he has adopted from the inventory of SF. Indeed, these writings sometimes fumble their attempts; but I remain after all under their spell, as it often happens at the sight of a lone imagination’s efforts to cope with a shattering superabundance of opportunities–efforts in which even a partial defeat can resemble a victory (66-67).

I am also under that spell and happily on the battlefield, a little the worse for wear, but with kit in hand. At least, I thought I was on a battlefield until I realized that I was sitting at a desk in front of a computer wildly typing away on this very blog. I suppose the battlefields, like ontologies, can change unexpectedly and for inexplicable reasons.

Image of Lem at the top of the post is from the Wikimedia Commons, details here.

Mary Kay Bray’s Copy of Time Out of Joint

I just cracked open the copy of Philip K. Dick’s Time Out of Joint that I requested via interlibrary loan for my PKD exam. I noticed that it arrived at the Kent State Library from the Watson Library at Wilmington College in Wilmington, OH, but I didn’t register where I had heard of Wilmington before. It has a colorful cover by Roy Colmer that portrays Phil Dick sitting with book in hand next to an old radio and eclipsing a distant planet in the background, but the real treasure was just inside the front cover:

This copy of Time Out of Joint used to belong to Mary Kay Bray, the science fiction scholar who was active in the Science Fiction Research Association and whose name is honored with her memorializing SFRA award: the Mary Kay Bray Award for Best Feature, Essay, or Review in the SFRA Review. She taught at Wilmington College. After her death in 1999, her close friend Professor William L. Andrews of UNC, Chapel Hill funded this award in Bray’s name. I was honored with the 2007 award for two reviews I wrote: one on Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and one on Ian McDonald’s Brasyl. Since then, I have served on the awards committee two years. See the other award winners here.

I was already looking forward to reading Time Out of Joint, but I am even more eager to do so now knowing that this particular copy of the novel belonged to a distinguished scholar and teacher with many friends in the SFRA. I only wish that I had had the chance to meet her in person. As it is, we are connected through time by science fiction.

Panel Event, A County Darkly: Philip K. Dick in the OC

I don’t dig the event’s name, but I really wish that I could be there for it. A County Darkly: Philip K. Dick in the OC will bring together authors Gregory Benford, Tim Powers, and James Blaylock, and critics Rob Latham and Jeff Hicks to discuss the influence of Dick’s life in Orange County, California on his work. Too far away for me, but I would welcome a comment from anyone who can make it there on May 21. The details are below:

TITLE: A County Darkly:  Philip K Dick in the OC

TIME:  Friday, May 21, 12-2 PM

PLACE: Humanities Gateway 1030, University of California, Irvine campus

PARTICIPANTS:

Science Fiction Authors:
*Gregory Beford
*Tim Powers
*James Blaylock

Science Fiction Critics
*Rob Latham
*Jeff Hicks

Moderator: Jonathan Alexander

ABOUT: This panel presentation will consider the inter-relationship of
Philip K. Dick’s work and his life in Orange County.  Spending the last
ten years of his life in the OC, Dick composed some of his most important
SF works here.  In many ways, the OC is a peculiarly Dickian space, with
managed communities and a veneer of the unreal.  Conversely, Dick’s late
novels (A Scanner Darkly, VALIS, and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer)
seem at least partly inspired by Dick’s life in Orange County.  Our
panelists will explore such connections, bringing the work of the
century’s most noted SF author to bear on our cultural imagination of
Orange County, while also bringing our imagination of the OC to bear on
possible interpretations of Dick’s work.

A light lunch will be served.
Please RSVP to Ms. Iveta Cruse at icruse@uci.edu by May Monday, May 17, 2010

Free Public Lecture at Georgia Tech, April 1, Jorge Martins Rosa Talk on Philip K. Dick

For those science fiction oriented folks in the Atlanta area, I would encourage you to check out this free public lecture at Georgia Tech’s Library on April 1. I wish that I could be there, because I definitely would have some questions for Professor Rosa. Here are the details:

The School of Literature, Communication, and Culture

and the Science Fiction Collection at Georgia Tech present

science fiction studies scholar

Jorge Martins Rosa

Thursday, April 1, 2010, 11:00 a.m.

“Stars in My Pocket”

FREE PUBLIC LECTURE

The Neely Room

Georgia Tech Library and Information Center

The trope of space exploration, which has attracted so many writers of genre science fiction, still remains one of its hallmarks. Professor Rosa, however, questions the true centrality of this trope within science fiction as it has evolved beyond the space operas of the so-called Golden Age. Perhaps, as David Hartwell argues in Age of Wonders in regards to the Moon landing and other achievements from the American space program “When it comes true… it’s no fun anymore.”

While establishing the truth of Hartwell’s hypothesis may be difficult to undertake within the limitations of a single talk, Professor Rosa will look at the peculiar way Philip K. Dick approached the trope of space exploration in his own fiction. In particular, he will explore how Dick anticipated the exhaustion of this trope—or rather, its substitution for a more inner (should we say “virtual”?) approach to space.

Jorge Martins Rosa is Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal, where he teaches courses including the post-graduate seminars “Fictional Modes:  Fiction and Technology” and “Cyberculture.”  His research interests involve the connections between literature, science, and digital culture. His visit to Georgia Tech is part of a research project on “Fiction and the Roots of Cyberculture.”

Refreshing Reinstall and Another PKD Novel

I hadn’t done a full OS reinstall on my MacBook since I originally got it, so I decided last night to remedy the situation with a clean nuke-and-pave of MacOS X 10.6.2 Snow Leopard. As you can see from the screenshot above, I am back up and running with 10.6.2. NeoOffice and CS4 along with a handful of other software goodies are reinstalled, and my files are restored to their rightful places on my hard drive. One thing that I decided to do differently, that I had never tried before, was to encrypt my home folder with FileFault. I know that this can cause a real problem when something goes wrong, but I backup my files often enough that I hope it won’t turn into a nightmare if the FileFault system develops a problem. So far, I haven’t noticed any performance hit or problem by using FileFault, despite copying back many files to my internal SSD.

While everything was being done, I finished Philip K. Dick’s Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. I will read A Scanner Darkly next and then switch back to some postmodern theory.

Freedom of Information Request on Philip K. Dick

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Today, I received a letter from the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding my recent Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (FOIPA) request for their files on the science fiction author Philip K. Dick. Unfortunately, I was informed that:

Based on the information you provided, we conducted a search of the indices to our Central Records System. We were unable to identify responsive main file records. If you have additional information pertaining to the subject that you believe was of investigative interest to the Bureau, please provide the details and we will conduct an additional search.

This is a puzzling outcome considering other folks have successfully accessed the FBI files on PKD (Willis Howard published some of the files on his 1999 dated website here).

In my previous request, I included his full name, Social Security number, dates of birth and death, an obituary, and cities of residence. In my appeal, I have included additional information from Sutin’s biography of Dick, a printout of Howard’s website, and information about Dick contacting the FBI about Thomas M. Disch, which Norman Spinrad writes about in the April/May 2009 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction.

My request goes in the mail tomorrow. I hope that I have better luck this time receiving what others have already found.

Why Is the Digital Future Only Found in Books?

Awhile back, Mack Hassler and I were talking about online personas and the differences between created personas in traditional print culture and the new electronic media.  Mack pointed out that the real interesting personae come through print culture and he named examples including Swift, Greg Egan, Philip K. Dick, and David Foster Wallace (think “Lyndon”)–all of whom employ internal controversies and different voices.  Philip K. Dick is an interesting example particularly if you consider his last published novel, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982).  It strikes me how much his supposedly strong female protagonist, Angel Archer, is like the author.  After reading Sutin’s biography of Dick, Divine Invasions (2005), there are unmistakable parallels between Archer and Dick, and I draw the conclusion that Archer is a voice for the author–a persona of her creator–PKD.

What does that have to do with the divide between print and computer media cultures?  There’s something to be said about the complexity and the richness of layers, all of which are probably tempered and strengthened by the publication process including acceptance and editing, present in print media–novels and short stories–that facilitates strong persona creation unequaled by electronic media as yet.  We all create online personae through email, social networking, or blogging (among other personal broadcast technologies). Those who interact with us electronically do so via cyberspace, that shared consensual hallucination, and we meet with only what we bring us–our words and stray bits of data including images, sounds, videos, and our reputation.  It is these things that others use to create an image or avatar of ourselves in their minds in order to make sense of our interactions–that’s just what our brains do with the available data at hand.  However, as Mack observed and I agree, the new media has permitted a proliferation of persona creation, but it is by-and-large thinned out in comparison to what we find in print media.

This then leads to my personal conundrum.  Mack said to me, “You’re serious about print, but you’re not serious.”  I am heavily invested in computer technology.  I built a PC specifically for online gaming–not that my grad student responsibilities allow me any time for that–and I recently decided to invest in Apple due to the economic downturn, which netted me their latest and greatest machined aluminum MacBook with a solid-state hard drive.  Despite the hardware underpinnings of my digital life via email, Facebook, and my blog, I rarely read or encounter stories online.  Yes, I read a lot online, probably more than I should considering my other duties, but the one thing that I don’t read online are SF stories.  The stories, the SF, that creates, imagines, and interfaces with the future is largely nonexistent on the medium that those stories take as its object of interest.  If I want to read about cyberspace, I don’t look online, I turn to pulp, paper, and the book for that imaginative immersion.

Where does that leave us in regard to the new media and books?  Considering my recent conversation with Stephen R. Donaldson, there is change in the wind, but obviously no one has the one answer to what that change may encompass.  I’m curious to hear the thoughts of Robert H. Jackson next Tuesday when he presents on the future of books at the Kent State Library.  I know he won’t have all (if any) the answers, but perhaps the face-to-face interaction will be illuminating in ways that online persona interaction is not.

David Foster Wallace, Philip K. Dick, and Transgressive Parody

Mack Hassler set with an interesting task this week after the unfortunate death of David Foster Wallace. He asked me to consider two questions:

1) Is PKD like Wallace in respect to the concept of “transgressive parody,” which Patrick Novotny defines in his chapter to Hassler and Wilcox’s Political Science Fiction (1997) titled, “No Future!  Cyberpunk, Industrial Music, and the Aesthetics of Postmodern Disintegration,” as, “Parody in the postmodernist aesthetic is the transgression of aesthetic and representational norms” (100).

2) How does PKD move beyond parody?

In response to the first query, Philip K. Dick operates in a similar fashion to David Foster Wallace in terms of transgressive parody.  Both authors use their medium of choice, SF for Dick and the non-fiction essay for Wallace (unfortunately, I have not yet read his fiction including Infinite Jest), as the means for their transgressive parody.  Dick parodies the streamlined and perfect futures of Clarke and Asimov through the introduction of kibble, entropy, and the disintegration of reality–a theme that Novotny elaborates in his study of cyberpunk and postmodernism, and Dick obviously is a predecessor of the cyberpunk authors and enjoyed the potential of postmodern play.  On the other hand, Wallace apes the professional essay format and bends it to his own ends through the use of play (there’s that word again), such as through his hyper-footnoting (the best parts of many of his essays are in the footnotes, and his footnotes have footnotes), and his employment of catechresis, or taking the story or argument from one context and applying it elsewhere–much in the vein of Derrida.  Dick and Wallace parody the norms of the writing that they are doing, but they transgress those norms for their own ends rather than making a comic attack on the parodied norms.  The way to think about it is that they take the postmodern sensibility of “whatever” to heart.  They appropriate the norms of the fields in which they work and reshape them, not to make a direct satire of what’s come before, rather to create something new of their own design for their own creative endeavors.  Dick brings the entropic breakdown of the real world and the inner, psychic world to SF, which had largely ignored that important aspect of reality.  Wallace brings a truly reflective mind and sensibility of open curiosity to apparently mundane and boring writing assignments–he grasps those boring moments as a place to begin thinking about more important matters that are, on the surface, only tangentially connected.

PKD moves beyond parody by using his works as a means of exploration of issues of self, identity, and subjectivity in an increasingly complex world.  On the surface, many of his works parody the cornerstones of the post-pulp era of SF.  For example, Ubik parodies aspects of SF such as space opera, but it does so only on the surface.  This isn’t Dick’s real target.  Instead, he uses the novel as a means to critique the nature of reality and the forces of entropy–two issues largely disregarded in SF until the New Wave.  Another example would be Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  In that novel, Dick parts ways with Asimov and gives his androids a real soul and a sense of self-preservation.  However, he isn’t parodying Asimov’s R. Daneel Olivaw, but instead, he’s appropriating an element of the SF mega-text for his own purposes, which is to work through his own questions about reality, soul, and memory.  

Blogging, Philip K. Dick, Percy Shelley, and Belief Systems

This is the third and final post of a three part series that explores some issues and ideas proposed to me by Mack Hassler as part of the independent study that he’s conducting for me on the works of Philip K. Dick.

What would Philip K. Dick do with a blog? How might he have revolutionized the way we engage and think about belief and our perception of reality had he had a less restrictive method of communicating with fans and passers-by alike?

I use my blog as a means of connecting with people personally as well as professionally. Originally intended as a personal blog about my travels abroad in the UK, it changed over time along with my own professional transformation into a PhD student and active participant in professional organizations. It allowed me to hone my writing ability through additional practice, and it facilitated feedback from those persons who happened to by blog by the almighty digital deity, Google. Also, it is a self-promotion of sorts, not unlike those by SF authors such as Cory Doctorow or John Scalzi, but it represents my life and work as a professional academic who critically thinks about the relationship between science, technology, and culture. It’s more than a calling card–it’s a bulletin board that I organize and run that facilitates a communal response to my observations and thoughts.

Philip K. Dick would undoubtedly have had a different kind of blog than Doctorow, Scalzi, or I. In his work, he questions the nature of reality and the human mind’s ability to perceive and react to the external world. He realized, like Percy Bysshe Shelley, that our relationship to the external world is made possible by our senses and the interpretation of that sensory data by our mind. Thus, the supposed external world is actually a simulation that is ever present in our mind. Dick questions, problematizes, and critiques our relationship to the external world in his myriad works, but it’s the latter works that specifically deal with perception and the questions of belief that Shelley raised in the early 18th century.

Shelley argued that the only ways in which one may believe in a Deity is directly through our senses, reason, and the experience of others. He quickly dispenses with the last two as being unequivocally insufficient for proof in God. However, the first, direct sensory perception is the only sure way to prove that God exists, for the individual. It is here that Dick steps into the picture one and three-quarter centuries later.

In his last works exploratory works, VALIS and the Exegesis, Dick describes his own direct sensory perception of a Deity, or more accurately, a Gnostic revelatory experience. In these works, which would have been the pinnacle of blog writing had he had a digital outlet for communicating his experiences, he describes on the page what he remembers of the experiences of 2-4-74 as well as his reasoning through those experiences. Dick follows what Shelley described two centuries before as the mind actively clarifying the sensory perception. And as a reflective person, Dick offered many interpretations and counter-interpretations for his sensory experience in order to find his own way of understanding the experience. From the extended process of reasoning, Dick arrived at his own set of beliefs surrounding the experience, but he conceded that they were his experiences, and despite sharing them, one must arrive at that kind of belief on their own. Additionally, he envisioned a future with less organized religion and more personal belief based on individualized experiences. In this sense, Dick is taking Shelley to task by establishing his own beliefs in a Deity.

I wonder what Dick would have concluded had he explored these ideas online through blogging. According to Sutin’s biography of Dick, Divine Invasions, Dick corresponded with friends and colleagues, but “he was blue because it seemed there was no one to talk with about the ideas that mattered to him” (273). Those ideas were those that he recorded as his verbose self-dialog in the Exegesis. However, interpersonal communication with friends is a somewhat different dynamic than the largely anonymous online communication (hence the recent flame war initiated by the new SFRA troll). Would an online community foster or impede Dick’s personal exploration of his unique sensory experiences? In addition to the voluminous writing that he was doing at that time regarding his experience, an online forum would necessitate a certain level of response and tailoring subsequent material to his readership. Perhaps this would have enhanced or altered his reasoning based on the suggestions and theories of others. However, as Shelley pointed out, we cannot wholly trust the reports of others in our own interpretation of sensory experiences. I’m confident that Dick would have been aware of this, but it would certainly have had some influence, however insignificant but subtle, on his own thinking.

There are certainly issues today with online communication and the dissemination of ideologies and systems of belief. I have heard anecdotally that online systems of communication assist individuals in finding or establishing smaller groups that share similar beliefs. Hence, Republicans find other Republicans, and Science Fiction fans find other Science Fiction fans. However, there’s certainly a cross pollination where, for example, Republicans find their way to the Science Fiction fan enclaves and either comment positively or negatively on something a SF fan has said, and vice versa. It’s these interactions between borders that I find interesting, because a synthesis at best or a culture war at worst is taking place at these imaginary or invisible dividing lines. Shelley and Dick would probably have found themselves on the same side, looking across the border at the unreflective infidels, and they would most assuredly have “guest blogged” on each other’s site.

One final thought–what would Shelley have done with a blog?  In his day, he used his wealth to print phamplets and he distributed them himself in London.  Was this an early form of blogging?  Perhaps the analogy might be that he was pushing an antiquated RSS feed to the masses (at least to the literate bourgeoise).  It’s interesting to consider the ways in which technology facilitated the ideas of Shelley and Dick, as well as to conjecture the ways in which our contemporary technology might have played a part in the further development or alteration to their ideas.